BRAC and the LEGO Foundation have announced a $4.7 million, three-year partnership to promote the importance of learning through play for early childhood education in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda.
Designed to emphasize the quality of learning as a hallmark of strong early childhood education, BRAC’s low-cost, high-impact Play Lab project will reach more than 7,000 children, aged three to five, across the three countries.
BRAC, an international development organization, has a widespread presence in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda, with established education and poverty alleviation programmes. The LEGO Foundation is recognized worldwide for its extensive knowledge of children’s development and learning processes along with the training and tools that educators need to release children’s potential. The partnership marks the LEGO Foundation’s first major investment in learning through play in Asia and strengthens its efforts in East Africa.
“Play is now widely recognized as a key facilitator in the emotional development of children,” said Devon Ritzer, Education Program Manager for BRAC USA, BRAC’s US-based affiliate. “Children are able to explore different aspects of their identity and increase collaboration through play.”
The pilot will also include training for 480 adolescent girls as paraprofessional play leaders, sessions for 7,200 parents on the importance of play and the creation of 120 Play Labs. Play Labs are spaces for children to engage in play. When used in tandem with a play-based curriculum, they help educators ensure children are learning while also fostering early childhood development.
The paraprofessional play leaders will be drawn from BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme, which empowers teenage girls socially and financially and provides safe spaces for them to socialize and receive mentoring and life skills training.
“Evidence continues to link play to the development of executive functions, resiliency, creativity, problem-solving, social skills and emotional well-being,” said Aline Villette, Senior Programme Manager at the LEGO Foundation. “Allowing children to learn through play provides a strong foundation for learning and for life.”
The Centre for Play at BRAC University’s Institute of Educational Development in Bangladesh will play a key role in the initiative. The Centre for Play will design both the safe play spaces and low-cost learning materials for children. The planning and design process will include the participation of community members to ensure that play environments are created in homes and community hubs that lack play spaces.
The joint project will also establish a global network of play-based learning experts to gather and assess international best practices, adapt and develop curriculum and materials, build staff capacity and advocate for children’s rights to access quality learning. To assure the quality of the spaces and age-appropriate effectiveness of the play materials, while also providing opportunity to innovate throughout the project, the collaboration will also spearhead research and help develop assessment tools to monitor and evaluate the Play Lab model.